Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘RPGs’


The Risk of Literalizing Fantastical Concepts

Once Orcs are not about the ancient threat of Neanderthal dominance,

Once Vampires are not about the nightmare of rape and the violation of our sanctity,

Once the immortal Lich is not about horror of structures of law and tradition which were invented by men who were dead long before we were born,

Once Werewolves are no longer about the terror of our inner animalistic impulses overwhelming us,

Once Zombies are not about our innate and unending fear of the implacable advance of gluttonous death,

then they are just housecats that we can kill from behind the safety of our +2 blade that adds two to our to hit roll, allowing us to strike at the monster if we roll an 8 or higher.

On Cultivating the Fantastic – Hack & Slash

Author’s emphasis.

Mud and Gas

Mud is a hazard that is totally natural for RPGs. Outdoor locations are extremely liable to be mud-spattered in rainy seasons, while underground locations with an earthen floor could, under sufficient flooding, turn into a quagmire not unlike those in Passchendaele. Particularly nasty is when the characters are caught in a torrential downpour and the area around them changes from fields into a swamp. The mud in Ypres was compared to the consistency of cheesecake, and soldiers would slowly sink in like quicksand.

Armor is absolutely a disadvantage in these situations. A World War I soldier’s kit is fairly comparable in weight to a fully loaded fighter wearing plate armor; if a character in plate falls into sufficiently deep mud, they need to be pulled out or they will drown. Chain is less heavy and probably gives a better chance to get out, although the armor might be ruined by caked-on mud holding water close to spots that will then be rusted out.

It also feels appropriate for various horrors to be lurking within the mud. Even relatively shallow mud, where characters aren’t at risk of drowning, can be made hazardous this way. Permanent mud might be home to nasty dire versions of worms or crayfish or other things that creep through the muck. And I’m always a sucker for scenes like the one in Star Wars where the mynock drags Luke down in the trash compactor.

And mud is a great place to hide pretty much anything. It could be treasure that was once buried, or a door half-hidden by muck where opening it is a logistical challenge, or a floor now covered that holds a secret message….

Gas traps are a D&D commonality, but are often all-or-nothing affairs. The gas kills you, or puts you to sleep; there is none of the sheer horror that mustard gas put into British troops on the Ypres salient. Choking tear gas is often used on civilians in the modern world, but if your fantasy setting has sufficiently advanced alchemy, it could very well be a part of everyday life in the dungeon….

Mud and Gas: Taking Inspiration from World War I – Semper Initiativus Unum

Warmth and Competence

What are the two things that are most important to know about a stranger? Or a group of strangers?

Social psychologists know. But so did the early authors of D&D.

The stereotype content model, elaborated by Susan Fiske and other social psychologists, describes how we organize beliefs about other people and social groups—traits and stereotypes. Over the past 20 years, dozens of studies have supported the idea that two key traits, warmth and competence, are major players in our attitudes and behaviors toward other groups.

Warmth is how cooperative the group appears to us. Competence is how strong—how able to do meaningful things—they look. So, jolly halflings might be seen as high in warmth but low in competence. Dour dwarves are the other way around, not very warm but very good at what they do. Kobolds, maybe, are low in both.

When two groups meet in an adventure, the rules of most early forms of D&D have them sizing up each other precisely on these two dimensions….

Morale and Reactions – Roles, Rules, & Rolls

The Opposite of Impact Is Fluff

So, you’re playing D&D and you’re fighting some orcs. All the orcs are armed with feather dusters, so they [are] actually incapable of harming anyone. And your DM doesn’t give [experience points] for combat, so they’ll yield [zero XP] upon death.

This combat is a waste of time. You’re just rolling dice until the orcs die.

The encounter is shit because the encounter has no impact.

Impact: the ability to permanently change the game. The opposite of impact is fluff.

Impact – Goblin Punch

Author’s emphasis.

Good and Evil Are Moral Extremes

…[It] might just be that good and evil are moral extremes embraced by a select few. Good is prized because it’s laudable, not to mention rare. Evil is reviled because it does harm and threatens all others regardless of their philosophical bent. But neutrals predominate….

GOOD characters aren’t simply decent people. They’re philosophically committed to advancing good, fighting evil, and bringing justice to others. Indeed, their attentions are for others, and they act with deep compassion and mercy for the downtrodden. This is the questing white knight. The one beloved by good folk and resented by the wicked.

Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to do what it takes to get there, and herein lies the high regard champions are held in. Few want the job!

Shifting to Neutral (‘Cause Most of Us Are) – Pits Perilous